* King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and led away many captives. Among these was Daniel.

Lesson 1 - Prophetic Symbols Revealed


The prophet Daniel wrote in symbolic language.

Just as military planners send secret messages in code to keep the enemy from intercepting and understanding them, so God has cloaked prophecy in symbolic language. He didn’t use symbols to prevent us from understanding His messages. He used them so the evil powers He exposed wouldn’t readily see themselves in the messages and attempt to tamper with them, change them, or destroy them.

Chart of Symbols

By using symbolic images and prophetic pictures, God is able to condense thousands of years of history into a very small space. Each prophetic symbol is clearly explained in Scripture. Once you understand the meaning of the symbol, Bible prophecy becomes plain. To help you in your understanding, study the chart below. The left-hand column lists the symbol as it appears in Bible prophecy. The center column lists the text which explains the symbol. The right-hand column gives the meaning of the symbol.

Symbol Clarifying Text What the Symbol Means
Metals in Daniel 2—gold, silver, brass, iron Daniel 2:38-40 Four successive world empires beginning in Daniel’s day
Head of gold in Daniel 2:38 Daniel 2:31-32 Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom—Babylon
Toes of image in Daniel 2:41 Daniel 2:41 A divided kingdom
The rock cut out without hands in Daniel 2:34 Daniel 2:44, 45 God’s eternal kingdom
The tree in Daniel 4:10 Daniel 4:20-22 King Nebuchadnezzar
The cutting down of the tree in Daniel 4:14 Daniel 4:24, 25 King Nebuchadnezzar’s loss of his throne to temporary insanity
The band of iron and brass around the tree’s stump in Daniel 4:15 Daniel 4:26 Nebuchadnezzar’s empire preserved
The mysterious writing on the wall of Belshazzar’s banquet hall in Daniel 5:5 Daniel 5:26-28 God’s judgment pronounced upon Babylon
Four winds in Daniel 7:2 Jeremiah 49:36, 37 (See also Revelation 7:1, 2) Winds equal devastation and destruction. The number four symbolizes the directions of the compass—North, South, East, and West.
Sea in Daniel 7:2 Revelation 17:15 Multitudes, peoples, nations
Beasts in Daniel 7:3 Daniel 7:17, 23 Empires or kingdoms
The lion, bear, leopard, and dragon-like beast in Daniel 7:3-8 Daniel 7:4-7 Four successive world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome
Ten horns in Daniel 7:7-8 Daniel 7:24 (first part) Ten kings or kingdoms—divisions of power
Little horn in Daniel 7:8 Daniel 7:24, 25 (last part) A diverse or different power; one that is not political, but religious in nature
Eyes like a man in Daniel 7:8 Ephesians 1:18 Eyes equal understanding or wisdom. Eyes like a man indicate a system based on human, rather than divine, wisdom
Clouds of heaven in Daniel 7:13 Matthew 16:27; Revelation 1:7 Angels
A prophetic day Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6;
Genesis 29:27
One year
Time, times, and half a time in Daniel 7:25 Revelation 12:6, 14 1,260 prophetic days or 1,260 literal years
Son of man in Daniel 7:13 Luke 19:10; Luke 21:27 Jesus Christ
Ram in Daniel 8:3 Daniel 8:20 Media-Persia
He goat in Daniel 8:5 Daniel 8:21 Greece
Prince of the Host in Daniel 8:11 Daniel 9:25, 10:13, 12:1; Isaiah 9:6 Jesus Christ
Transgression in Daniel 8:12 1 John 3:4 Sin is the transgression, or breaking, of God’s law
Transgression or abomination of desolation Daniel 11:31, 32 Open rebellion against God, His word, and His law—the Ten Commandments
2300 prophetic days in Daniel 8:14 Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34 2,300 literal years
Seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24 Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34 490 literal years
Messiah the Prince in Daniel 9:25 Matthew 1:21 Jesus Christ
The covenant in Daniel 9:27 Matthew 26:28 God’s plan of salvation through the blood of Christ
The prince of the kingdom of Persia in Daniel 10:13 John 12:31 The prince of this world, or Satan
King of the South in Daniel 11:5 Exodus 5:2 Spiritual Egypt, anti-God powers, atheistic powers
King of the North in Daniel 11:7 Revelation 14:8, 9; 18:1-5 Spiritual Babylon, or false religious powers which, under the guise of religion, deceive with false teachings
Tidings from the east in Daniel 11:44 Matthew 24:27 The message of Christ’s soon return